Netflix projects like The Harder They Fall have broadened representation and enabled more people to see their lives and cultures reflected on screen PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX
THESE NETWORK DEI EXECUTIVES ARE CHANGING THE GAME.
Netflix’s Verna Myers takes a tactical and emotional approach to inclusivity. PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX
VP OF INCLUSION STRATEGY AT NETFLIX
Vernā Myers is an inclusion strategist, cultural innovator, thought leader and social commentator. The Harvard-trained lawyer is also an author and founder of The Vernā Myers Company. Her inspiring TED Talk, How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them, has been viewed nearly 3 million times.
What’s the biggest challenge you face? There are so many ways that bias, privilege and inequity have been embedded in the culture and systems. Real equity and inclusion means we have to transform our way of being internally and externally, rather than just tinker around the edges with programs and activities. So, we are talking about a long-term cultural shift. To enable the shift it will take what we call at Netflix the 4 C’s of inclusion: consciousness, competence, compassion and courage. We are on that journey, but it’s not easy.
What’s your most innovative approach to inclusivity? There are two things: one tactical and one emotional. Tactically, we have embedded inclusion experts in every function in the business and they work along with our other HR business partners. On the emotional side, I believe that compassion is the key to shifting from the old to the new. We need to be both compassionate to ourselves and to others if we are going to find our way to a better, more harmonious and just industry and world.
What are some examples of Netflix’s success with representation? Great storytelling not only entertains but provides a window to the world—offering people access to new voices, perspectives and cultures. Stories like The Harder They Fall, Never Have I Ever, Gentefied, Love on the Spectrum, Pray Away, Yasuke and Squid Game broaden representation—enabling more people to see their lives and cultures reflected on screen. They also challenge prejudice and increase empathy and understanding. … Better representation on screen starts with representation behind the camera and in the office.
Latasha Gillespie created Amazon’s first Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) conference. PHOTO: BY JUAN VELOZ
HEAD OF GLOBAL DEI AT AMAZON STUDIOS, PRIME VIDEO AND IMDB
Latasha Gillespie oversees the improvement of diversity and inclusion of content, creatives and the ecosystem surrounding Amazon Studios. An award-winning leader, she is credited with creating Amazon’s first Conversations on Race and Ethnicity (CORE) conference.
How does Hollywood become more inclusive? Hollywood would/could be more inclusive by being very intentional about every decision. Each choice matters because the tonnage of our decisions either creates an inclusive environment or one where people feel maligned. It’s also important for those of us who are creative executives or senior leaders to inspect and interrogate our results with the same rigor as we do with box-office results. If the results don’t reflect the representation and inclusion we are striving for, then we must be willing to challenge our decision-making processes.
What’s the biggest challenge you face? As an industry, we are still exploring technology and tools that will allow us to standardize how we collect, track and report data. That kind of collective transparency would be transformational.
What’s an example of your innovative approach to inclusivity? One mechanism we use to audit ourselves is the greenlight process. Every greenlight discussion includes an assessment on how a piece of content might appeal to our customers—in particular, historically marginalized customers. We also consider the impact the content will have on our customers, both from a representation standpoint as well as authenticity. Making DEI a standard part of the greenlight process holds us accountable to being mindful and intentional at every decision point.
SVP OF CREATIVE TALENT DEVELOPMENT AND INCLUSION (CTDI) AT DISNEY GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT
A TV programming development veteran, Tim McNeal transitioned into talent development as VP of talent development and diversity and was then promoted to head of CTDI. In his role, he leads the strategic planning for the company’s diversity agenda and serves as a liaison between Disney General Entertainment and diversity-focused organizations, nonprofits and guilds.
How does Hollywood become more inclusive? Hollywood is one of the most progressive industries in the world. However, when it comes to being a universally inclusive industry, it still has its blind spots. I think it starts at the top; industry titans have to lead by example. When CEOs and presidents acknowledge and address their shortcomings, things start to change. It’s not about checking boxes, but rather creating a culture of inclusiveness that celebrates people for their differences.
What are some successes in diversity and inclusion that you’ve seen? Some of the best inclusive storytelling that I’ve seen in recent years has been with shows like Insecure and I May Destroy You. Shows that have been created by and star a Black female in the lead role. These women have been empowered to tell their authentic and flawed stories. I also see progress in a show like Mayans MC, especially as Elgin James was empowered to tell his authentic story. More and more, we are beginning to see creators are allowed to step out of the confinement of network/studio notes to tell the stories that represent their vision and experience. This is in part due to the explosive growth of television/streaming and the need for greater volume of content. This turns out to be a win-win for the creator and the studio.
What is your most innovative approach to inclusivity? Honesty and transparency. It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know.’ That’s the beginning of the journey to creating an inclusive culture, whether on a show, in the office or in your community.
Tim McNeal leads the company’s diversity agenda and serves as a liaison with diversity-focused organizations, nonprofits and guilds. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DISNEY GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT
“It’s not about checking boxes, but rather creating a culture of inclusiveness that celebrates people for their differences.”–TIM MCNEAL, DISNEY GENERAL ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT
DC Comics’ Suicide Squad welcomes the first Indigenous Australian character PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNERMEDIA
EVP OF COMMUNICATIONS AND CHIEF INCLUSION OFFICER AT WARNERMEDIA
Recognized for advancing diverse representation in the entertainment industry, Christy Haubegger leads WarnerMedia’s global marketing and communications efforts and is also responsible for furthering diversity, equity and inclusion across the enterprise’s workforce. She joined WarnerMedia from Creative Artists Agency (CAA) where she spent 14 years leading the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Haubegger is also a producer who graduated from Stanford Law School and founded Latina magazine in 1996.
What is the best part of your role as CIO at WarnerMedia? The best part about my role is seeing the impact we can have. I want to measure my life and impact... not in money and titles and things. I feel like I can have a transformative impact in this organization and then on our industry, given our role in the industry.
What’s your most innovative approach for the industry to become more inclusive? I feel like the 1.0 of equity inclusion was, ‘OK, can we get people into the room?’ … I feel like we’ve started that process and we’ve seen progress, but what I think we need to focus on now is the experience that people are having in the room. Equity is about equitable opportunity to get there. And then inclusion is really about what kind of experience you [have]. I think those two things have to go together. It’s not enough to be in the room, you have to be in an environment where you can thrive.
WarnerMedia’s Christy Haubegger. PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNERMEDIA
“It’s not enough to be in the room, you have to be in an environment where you can thrive.”–CHRISTY HAUBEGGER, WARNERMEDIA
What are some successes in diversity and inclusion that you’ve seen? We’re showing progress across our brands in front of and behind the camera, and the reason for this is that we’re making changes to ensure that we have creators and stories that reflect the breadth of our global audiences. [In particular], we understand that superheroes are essential across all cultures, our DC leadership has [equity and inclusion] at the heart of their strategy, DC publishing, film, TV and other content represent more voices and perspectives than ever before—including welcoming one of the world’s first Aboriginal superheroes (Thylacine, part of the Suicide Squad)—and we’ve made sure to share this with the world by hosting DC FanDome. We’ve seen some successes across the industry, and while we at WarnerMedia are very proud of the progress we’re making, we know we still have much work to do.